After the Fall

After the Fall

As the moist air rolls off the Pacific Ocean to first encounter the North American land mass it slams headlong into the Olympic Mountains, rises up, cools off, and dumps. Of all the regions in the lower 48 states, this is wettest and this is where I live. Nearly 10 feet of rain has fallen here this winter.

The Satsop River Valley is sparsely populated. Ninety-five percent of the land is in commercial timber production and of that, 70 percent are trees aged 35 years, or younger.  I live among some of the most productive industrial timberlands in the world fed by this relentless rain. Gone are the massive mixed old-growth native forests of fir and cedar and hemlock with trees that could count not decades, nor centuries, but millenia with trunks that could reach 16 feet across. In their stead are rows of perfect soldiers of the master race who march obediently across fertilized and herbicide-sprayed fields to their efficient end in just a few short decades. This is a cornfield, we say, a mine of “sustainable” forestry. We build our homes and wipe our asses with this wonder of modern silvaculture.

Here it is all about timber, and paper, and fishing. Product. Extraction and subjugation in the industrial landscape of a forest. The towns here were built around the mills and the salmon canneries in another century. Aberdeen lies downstream along the Chehalis River and like many such American towns based on resource extraction and production, those towns that fueled expansion and built a nation, its best days are seemingly long behind it.

This place has its own wonder, though, a dark humor for two-thirds of the year, and a brilliant blinding splendor for one. The winter here is temperate, and long. We crawl slowly from its long embrace bleary-eyed, blinking, stunned again by the impossible blue of summer only then to realize, we were asleep. With this work, I am exploring the intersections between man and nature, industry and the natural world, policy and practice in my own backyard.

Tom Hyde is a photographer living in Washington State. His background includes work in conservation, environmental policy and journalism. He joined Statement Images in 2010.

“After the Fall” recently received an honorable mention and was listed as one of the top 30 submissions in the Emerging Photographer Grant sponsored by David Alan Harvey’s Burn Magazine and awarded by the Magnum Cultural Foundation, a non-profit created by the members of Magnum Photos. The essay currently appears on Burn Magazine. Judges for the 2011 grant were Trent Parke, Narelle Autio, Maggie Steber, and Barbara Strauss.

By: Tom Hyde